We are all part of a biodynamic movement that is growing like a living organism. This movement was started by pioneers, often personalities with a great will, capable of lifting mountains to create biodynamic farms and associations from scratch. But after a certain age, the question often arises for these pioneers: how to pass the baton, how to make room for the next generation to feel free to take over?
An exemplary way is to follow a movement from the centre to the periphery to make room in the centre for the younger colleagues. That is, to move from a local commitment in a concrete place to a more global commitment, for example by actively engaging in the development of biodynamics on a regional or national level. In this way, all the skills acquired can be passed on through training or advice to younger people and newcomers. Finally, it is even possible to become involved on an international level. An essential quality for these new activities is to always be at the service of and to listen to the real needs of the people seeking advice in order to avoid any attitude of "colonialism".
Such a biography can be understood as the movement of ever-widening concentric waves created by an object thrown into water. From the engagement in a specific place to the whole planet and perhaps even the whole cosmos after the earthly life.
In his rich biography, Thomas Schmidt has followed these steps in an exemplary way. First as cofounder of Heggelbachhof, then working for Demeter e.V. and finally supporting development in Latin America and worldwide.
Jean-Michel Florin, Head of the Section for Agriculture & Board Member of the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International
The Demeter community mourns the death of Thomas Schmid Obituary
After a short, serious illness Thomas Schmid passed away on 13th April 2022. The Demeter community mourns the loss of a friend, long-time chairman of the Demeter e.V. supervisory board, architect of the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International, a fighter for the biodynamic and mediator for the social, but above all a wonderful human being.
Engaged from the beginning
After studying agriculture, Thomas Schmid, born in 1956, founded the Heggelbach farm community with his then wife Ulrike and two other families. The intensive community culture enabled continuous farm development, with Thomas frequently contributing new ideas and innovative projects. The land was transferred to a non-profit organisation, Mercurialis e.V.. The farm’s growth required new marketing channels and so Thomas was one of the pioneers who developed sustainable relationships with conventional supermarket structures. He as also a pinoneer in the energy sector: a prototype wood gasifier for electricity-heat coupling based on wood chips and an agro-photovoltaic system were tested in Heggelbach.
From an early stage, Thomas wanted to introduce the next generation to the responsibility of the growing community business. In doing so, it was essential for him to create pioneering situations for the “newcomers”. Later, he was able to use and share the experience he gained in this way – and from 30 years of community experience – in his advisory role, which he took up after handing over responsibility for the farm. Thomas was active from the end of 2012 until 2019 in the Advisory Service for Organic Agriculture Ulm, and then in the Demeter Advisory Association as an impulse-giving advisor for farm development and social processes. With humour, appreciation and a sense of proportion, he accompanied people on farm and individual development paths.
His moderation skills and his attention to process shaped his work. For example, he was involved in the Workshop for Enterprise Development, in “wir kooperieren” (we cooperate) and, together with friends, founded the Kulturland-Genossenschaft (cultural land cooperative), an alternative land trust, in order to secure land for ecological farms in a way that is oriented towards the common good.
He also contributed to the founding of the Lake Constance Alliance, which is an expression of the increased self-confidence of Demeter farmers there. Within this framework, he was intensively involved in the development of the farm talks. In the Bauerngemeinschaft Bodensee (Lake Constance Farmers’ Association), he was largely responsible for new regional marketing channels.
Involvement in the Demeter Community
Thomas Schmid became involved in the Demeter national association as a delegate for the Baden-Württemberg region and as a treasurer. From 2014, he was a valued member of the association’s supervisory board, and its chairman for six years. With persistence and great empathy, he accompanied the federal boards. Thomas also volunteered as a member of the supervisory board of the Forschungsring.
At the international level he was a member of the board of the IBDA, the International Biodynamic Association. Within this framework he was one of the architects of the new international umbrella organisation that brought together Demeter International and the IBDA in the new Biodynamic Federation Demeter International. He was particularly committed to overcoming the eurocentric perspective in the biodynamic movement and to creating a federation based on solidarity and subsidiarity, in which all biodynamic impulses are understood and promoted worldwide. He was able to bring this vision to life as chair of the Federation’s Membership Committee, working with many new member organisations. In particular, as project leader of the KVP project in Columbia he, and his wife Petra Derkzen, were able to set social and biodynamic impulses for the whole Latin American continent.
The guiding principle for Thomas was the attitude of encouraging other people to recognise and develop their own abilities; through questions and moderation he enabled others to become active themselves. Last but not least, Thomas was characterised by his sense of humour and his impatience. Beyond the many operational innovations that Thomas brought forward, his central question in life was ultimately that of social interaction.
The Demeter community will keep him as a shining example in its hearts and actions, and will honour his memory!
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Would you like to be part of the International Network of Biodynamic Trainers? Join the network of biodynamic trainers!
The role of Biodynamic trainers is more relevant today than ever. In a society increasingly disconnected from nature and its own consciousness, the experience of practicing biodynamics holds the potential to reconnect with our dormant capacities and re-perceive ourselves as one with nature.
This year, almost 100 years after the birth of the biodynamic movement, the Federation wants to build support and further promote meaningful training impulses worldwide. To this end, and together with the Section for Agriculture of the Goetheanum, in 2022 we are organising the second International Biodynamic Training and Teaching Conference. To strengthen the training initiatives on the various continents, this year the conference will be decentralised into four regional workshops, with one in each continent: Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia & Oceania.
Conscious of the transformative potential that biodynamic learning experiences can have in human beings, the main theme of the conference will be “Learning Biodynamics as a Path of Transformation”. The theme will be approach in each regional conference according to local interests, needs and contexts. At the centre of this training impulse will be the question: How can biodynamic trainers encourage meaningful learning processes?
In preparation for this conference, we would like to strengthen the international networks of biodynamic trainers. We want to reach out to all biodynamic trainers around the world and update and expand our database of trainers (https://demeter.net/services/biodynamic-training/). We want to make visible the training programmes existing in different contexts, while providing a platform to facilitate communications between trainers worldwide. We believe our biodynamic trainers can better overcome the growing challenges and responsibilities they face through constructive support networks across the whole international community.
If you would like to be part of the International Network of Biodynamic Trainers and/or require further information about your regional Training Conference, please contact Paz Bernaschinaat:email@example.com. Once we have updated our database, we will reach out to all biodynamic trainers worldwide with further news for this year.
The kick off was very successful with more than 70,000 signatures already collected and rising interest in the petition. The coalition of organisations is growing day by day with more than 45 organisations in 15 different countries across the EU running and supporting the petition, among which several member organisations of the Federation. Just recently Demeter France launched the petition on their website.
The petition aims to call on EU decision makers to take a strong stand against any deregulation attempts and to uphold mandatory safety checks, transparency and labelling for all GMOs on the market, so that we know what is in our fields and on our plates!
If you want to know more about new GMOs – what they are and the risks and threats they represent – please have a look at our latest leaflet. For more detailed information, you can read our position paper.
If you are interested to participate and support the petition or if you would like more information, please contact Clara Behr at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Earth Day 2022 Healing our Earth through agriculture
On April 22, the Federation celebrated International Earth Day 2022 and invited us all to take a step back from our daily business and re-focus on the bigger picture: the health of our planet – our Mother Earth. Here is our publication: https://demeter.net/international-earth-day-2022/.
More than ever, we should be thankful for the endless support our Earth provides us, and be concerned for its health. Our planet is threatened by climate change and will face its unprecedented consequences. If we don’t preserve our resources and take a regenerative approach, a point of no return will be reached quite soon.
This is why we commit daily to take care of our planet by healing the Earth through biodynamic agriculture. Our view is very clear: money needs to go into actions that preserve and regenerate our Earth. We need to ensure that the investments and financial rewards for sustainable agriculture go to the people that implement these practices. Namely, to the farmers that care for their farm ecosystems, animals, crops, and soil.
However, our efforts will not be sufficient without clear support from governments worldwide. A few tweaks and tricks will not be enough. Support for proven practices, such as organic or biodynamic farming, offer real solutions and need to be implemented widely. On International Earth Day let us remember that we have only one Earth, and that our approach to agriculture can play a key role in preserving it!
Among the Easter eggs, there is indeed one that is special: the egg of a male chick. Every year approximately 7 billion new-born male chicks are killed around the world. They are considered commercially worthless, as they do not lay eggs and have no been bred to gain enough meat to be used as broiler chickens at a later stage.
However, the raising of male chicks is part of poultry farming. Several biodynamic Demeter pioneer farmers show how roosters can be included in the farm and raised according to their nature and needs. The poultry are treated with respect and integrity from breeding, through feeding, housing and management, to slaughtering according to high animal welfare standards.
'Dual-purpose' breeds can be used as a viable alternative to culling day old male chicks. These breeds enable the rooster to grow fast enough and the hen to lay enough eggs so that neither surpasses the other. The aim is to create a balance, ensure animal health, and to offer a realistic alternative to breeding practices that focus on maximum yields and one-sided specialisation.
A change in practices is necessary and possible – male chicks deserve a worthy future. This is why we advocate for a strict prohibition on chick culling. Whether before or after hatching, all animals must be incorporated into livestock systems.
Book now further excursions after the Members Assembly in 2022!
Discover Chile & Latin American Conference
Between 25 and 30 of November 2022, the Members' Assembly (MA) will be held in Chile. We recognise how important it is to meet again in person, after such a long time apart. The Federation together with ABDChile are organising a thoughtful and dynamic MA, combining both work and enjoyment.
We will be travelling along Chile, visiting its diverse landscapes and geographies. Starting in the mediterranean-climate of the central region of Chile we will head southwards to more temperate regions, with stunning landscapes, wild forests and beautiful lakes. Along the way we will be visiting a diversity of biodynamic farms, enjoying local food and seeking to delve into the agricultural and socio-cultural diversity of the country.
We will generate insightful spaces for work and conversation on those issues that call us collectively, to be worked on as a Federation. We hope that delegates from all the member countries of the Federation will be able to participate, as these instances are immense opportunities for us to strengthen and unify ourselves as an International Federation.
After the MA there will be the opportunity for those who wish to extend their visit to join a further excursion to continue visiting the beautiful corners of Chile or elsewhere in Latin America. These additional excursions are dependent on numbers. For further details or to express your interest, please contact Sarah Fischer (email@example.com) from the Federation by 15May.
Between 8 and 12 of December 2022 all visitors are most welcome to join the XXXVI Latin-American Conference of Biodynamic Agriculture. This event is the most important meeting for the biodynamic community in Latin America. It takes place every year in different countries of the continent and this year the hosts will be the Peruvian community, but it is organised jointly with the Latin American Council of Biodynamic Agriculture.
This year the theme of the meeting will be "Contribution of the Americas to the Vitality of the Pachamama". During the meeting, experiences and knowledge are exchanged and regional interests and needs are discussed. The details of the programme and the topics to be worked on are still to be defined.
All those who want to participate are welcome, especially those who come to the MA are invited to extend their stay in Latin America and come to Peru, a geographically and culturally very rich and beautiful country, with warm and welcoming people. Members of the Latin American community from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, will be waiting for you in this unique training impulse in Latin America.
Just in time for ProWein we can publish the latest statistics on Demeter viticulture worldwide. We are particularly pleased to report that Demeter viticulture has again grown strongly compared to the last survey (31% growth in area and 27% growth in the number of vineyards). This means that around 1,300 winegrowers worldwide now work on 22,400 hectares of vineyards according to the Demeter standards. New additions since the last survey are vineyards in Romania and in Georgia, as well as six vineyards in Canada, which are included in the statistics for the first time. The complete list can be found above.
In addition to the statistics, the Federation is also moving in to the digital age, with the new International Winegrowers' Platform, which replaces the old International Winegrowers' List (in print format) with immediate effect. Here, wine traders can use a full text search, as well as filter by country and growing region, to find the contact addresses of Demeter wine growers worldwide. Click here to access the platform.
If you would like to visit the Demeter stand at ProWein, you are warmly invited to come to Düsseldorf from 15-17 May 2022 (Hall 5, Stand C20/25).
For more information, please contact Nina Weis at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
News from the Section
Save the date: New online course “The farm organism for planetary health"
In-depth examination of the concept of agricultural organism by the 'Deepen Biodynamics' course - 12 Sept to 3 Oct
In the course "The farm organism for planetary health: a biodynamic perspective on climate change, ecological balance and the responsibility of farmers for our agriculture future", Jean-Michel Florin and Lin Bautze from the Section for Agriculture will focus on the meaning of the core concept of biodynamics.
The course will present and discuss the important aspects of this topic for participants from education and training, advisory services, agricultural practice, and agricultural and environmental organisations.
As well as theoretical background knowledge, the course will place particular emphasis on methods, tools and ways of thinking from worldwide biodynamic practice.
We will explore how the agricultural organism can lead to an environmentally, socially and economically meaningful form of agriculture at the local level, which can also have a positive impact in solving today's challenges. A step in the direction of "planetary health / planetarischer Gesundheit".
Biodynamic Research Conference 2021 Conference proceedings published
The second biodynamic research conference (BDRC 2021) was held from 30 August to 2 September 2021. Over 60 contributions, in the form of presentations, work groups, posters, and more were delivered online on the subject of "Growing beyond resilience".
The conference proceedings have now been published on the research website of the Section for Agriculture. The proceedings contain all the abstracts received from the contributors. The conference content is available to all those interested, in addition to the over 170 participants from 34 countries.
We would like to take this opportunity to once again express our heartfelt thanks to all the contributors, reviewers, conference partners and organising team, as well as the participants and our financial supporters. Without them this conference would not have been possible.
Living Farms and Alois Lageder New video released!
The Living Farms project is a study and video documentation of biodynamic farms around the world. A key focus of the project is to document existing practical solutions to the global challenges of our times.
This resulted in a series of videos portraying seven farms. The latest video of the series, depicting the Alois Lageder farm in South Tyrol, has now been released. The family business started with a small wine shop in Bolzano and two nearby vineyards. The business now has 55 hectares of grapevines, over 70 employees and in excess of 80 winegrowing partners. The wine shop has expanded to a restaurant, various event locations for concerts, and wine cellars filled with a wide range of varieties and terroirs.
News from China First Chinese Biodynamic Electronic Magazine
Malaysia BD Agri-Culture Academy organized four courses about biodynamic agriculture, running over the course of half a year, for Chinese-speaking people all around the world. The courses are attracting more and more students and a translation and editorial team for the new newsletter formed naturally out of this increasing interest. The first Chinese BD electronic magazine was born in March 2022.
Demeter China Association issued the Chinese version of the BFDI monthly journal through this electronic magazine, for both the DCA members and the public. The new electronic magazine is increasing interest in biodynamics amongst Chinese people.
Symposium Living Agriculture Prague, Czech Republic, 04-05.03.2022
Leading Czech and foreign experts in organic, biodynamic and social agriculture met in Prague for the second year of the Symposium on Living Agriculture. The event took place at the national agriculture museum in Prague.
The main topic was good nutrition and proper soil management as the main prerequisites for sustainable food production and healthy landscape. Great focus was also given to social farms and their current experiences, challenges, and future. An official invitation ceremony for the new students of the Farm school (a three-year practical training program in organic and biodynamic agriculture) also took place.
The Symposium offered a great range of lectures and seminars. Among the speakers were Urs Niggli, Martin von Mackensen, Georg Meißner, Matthias Stralhofer, Thomas van Elsen, Jiří Urban and Martin Hutař (one of the founders of organic farming in the Czech Republic), Jaroslav Záhora (soil science expert) and many others.
Examples of good practice and modern scientific approaches in organic and biodynamic agriculture
The Living Agriculture Symposium is a unique platform which, in addition to training in biodynamic and organic farming, connects professionals and the general public. It is a great place to meet people who are working towards a change in the current conventional ways of farming, food production and agriculture in general. These topics seems to be even more important in the light of the current situation in Eastern Europe. This year, 200 people participated in the symposium.
The Symposium showcased examples of good practice from the Czech Republic and abroad. "Our speakers bring new and modern scientific approaches towards plant and soil management. We presented evidence from many farms, companies and institutions showing that even after converting to organic or biodynamic agriculture, these companies can be productive and profitable" says Jiří Prachař, initiator and organizer of the Symposium Living Agriculture.
Organic and biodynamic agriculture as part of the path to sustainability
The key themes of this year's event were innovative approaches to plant and soil care and nutrition. What practices can be used in organic farming? "With quality soil care it is possible to farm in a modern and sustainable manner and to achieve sufficient yields and production quality even without the use of industrial fertilizers and chemical-synthetic pesticides” says Jiří Urban, one of the founders of organic farming in the Czech Republic. Jiří Urban gave an introductory lecture at the Symposium together with his long-time colleague Natalia Prokopchuk, whom he brought together with her son from shelled Kiev.
Social farming: experience and inspiration from the Czech Republic and from abroad
Social farming combines production and sale of agricultural products with the ability to provide social services and a variety of therapies for people with a wide range of health and social disadvantages. "During the symposium, participants were able to find out more about currently operating social farms from the Czech Republic and abroad. We tried to visualise how these farms work, what challenges they face and what benefits and values they have for local communities. I was very glad that Thomas van Elsen, an expert in social agriculture and co-founder of the European Academy of Landscape Culture PETRARCA, also accepted our invitation to speak at the symposium,” adds Jiří Prachař.
The Symposium Living Agriculture is co-organized by a large number of organizations seeking change in agriculture. The main organizers include: Farmářská škola (Farm school), AMPI Association, Demeter Czech&Slovakia, Czech Organics, Bioinstitut, SoFarm, Hnutí Duha and the German Netzwerk Biodynamische Bildung.
From Saturday 2 to Monday 4 April, professionals and newcomers to biodynamic agriculture gathered at a biodynamic farm in Castilla la Mancha, Spain, for training courses.
The biodynamic association Agro Cultura Con Respeto, in partnership with the German consulting company Merckens development support, organised the three-day event in the southeast of Spain. An information and exchange meeting on stinging nettle preparation (504) took place the first day, with over sixty participants from all over Spain. After a theoretical introduction on the unique properties of stinging nettle, its botanical traits, its various uses and its numerous functionalities, 504 biodynamic preparation was elaborated by the course participants on the farm. Experts in biodynamic preparations as well as beginners learned from one another and exchanged insights during the process.
In the afternoon, the participants discussed the Spanish biodynamic sector: what are its strengths and weaknesses? Its threats and opportunities? How to strengthen the sector, contribute to its development and raise awareness about biodynamics? They reflected on these questions in small groups and all together, discussing the role of each profession linked to biodynamics in meeting these challenges. This first gathering day was part of an Erasmus+ project co-financed by the European Commission.
The following two days a workshop on the methodology of "farm talks" took place. This training event was initially planned in close cooperation with Petra Derkzen from the Federation. Due to pandemic circumstances the training had to be postponed from January to April and then, Petra could most unfortunately not make it to Castilla La Mancha. Nevertheless, the organisers decided to go on with the workshop as scheduled, building on their previous experience in farm talks. The Demeter recognized advisors Klaus Merckens and Eduardo Sánchez moderated the course, supported by Ricardo Colmenares, board member of Agro Cultura Con Respeto.
Following an introductory session about the core principles of the farm talks methodology and the auto evaluation elements, practical exercises were run. How can fellow farmers as a group of farm guests contribute, together with the host farmer, to the development of the farm through an enriching discussion in an environment of mutual trust and respect? The participants worked on the principles of non-violent communication by taking defined roles during the practical exercises of the farm talks. Following the field visits, there was a positive exchange between the distinct groups, with tangible results and constructive proposals emerging at the end of the course. This training led to fruitful exchanges between the attending professionals, thereby motivating farmers for future implementation of this methodology on their farms.
Solidarity with Ukraine Initiatives from the biodynamic movement
Initiative in France
Several members of the French Biodynamic Agriculture Movement, (Mouvement de l'Agriculture Bio-Dynamique, MABD), both trustees and staff, have special links with Ukraine. They run courses in Ukraine, organised by their former colleague Maryna Bogdanok, of Ukrainian origin, on the Potutory biodynamic farm near Lviv.
Maryna, who had just returned from Poland where she accompanied a convoy and helped to find accommodation for the many war refugees, was asked how the biodynamic community could help in this dramatic situation. For her, the answer was quite simple. Many refugees are arriving and more will arrive. The priority for them is to find a place to stay and food. But the second and equally important concern is the need to maintain one's dignity and independence. What could be worse than depending on others and waiting without feeling useful?
In this context, biodynamic farms, with their healthy environment, have great potential in terms of quality of life and activities. This is why MABD called on biodynamic farms in France to contact Maryna if they are able to host refugees, or provide a possibility of employment, in the hope that many will participate.
Initiative in the UK
The Biodynamic Agricultural College UK has taken the initiative to offer work and training on biodynamic farms to refugees. Hopefully to turn a desperate situation into an opportunity and to further biodynamics in other countries. There are a number of websites that make it easy to offer work:
Organics Europe Youth Event 2022 Together for sustainable food systems
At this premiere edition of the Organics Europe Youth Event, the central theme: “Organic and Youth – Together for sustainable food systems” will be explored. The event will take place in Frick, Switzerland, on 31 August – 1 September 2022. The full programme is now available on the website. Here is a short preview:
Panel discussion on how we can build sustainable food systems. In this session actors from various parts of the organic sector will discuss transformation steps and the role of organic and youth within this development.
Inspirational Hour: A session where entrepreneurs, farmers, and activists from all over Europe pitch their innovative company, project, or organisation in organic production.
Discussion sessions for participants to talk about a selection of sustainability challenges for the organic food system, and create new ideas on how to overcome these.
If you want to stay up to date with everything that is going in the world about GMOs and pesticides, you can have a look at GMWatch: https://www.gmwatch.org/en/.
GMWatch provides the public with the latest news and comment on genetically modified foods and crops and their associated pesticides. It is an independent organisation that seeks to counter the enormous corporate political power and propaganda of the GMO industry and its supporters. It does this through its website, email lists, Powerbase portal, LobbyWatch, social media, and other outreach and campaigning activities.
GMWatch was founded in 1998 by Jonathan Matthews and its managing editors are Jonathan Matthews and Claire Robinson. It gratefully acknowledges donations from individual supporters as well as NGOs, charitable foundations, and trusts.
Why food prices are expected to skyrocket and how biodynamic farming is the solution
An article by Dr. Joseph Mercola was published recently on rising food prices around the world. While the debate around food shortages and prices is nothing new, the interesting part of the article is that biodyanmics is presented as the solution for the future of agriculture.
Food shortages and skyrocketing food prices now appear inevitable. The global food price index hit its highest recorded level in March 2022, rising 12.6% in a single month. On average, food prices were one-third higher than in March 2021.
Inflation was already ramping up well before Russia went into Ukraine, with the uncontrolled printing of fiat currencies that occurred in response to the COVID pandemic. Governments’ COVID responses have also wreaked havoc with global supply chains, causing disruptions that continue to this day. Ukraine has ceased exports of wheat, oats, millet, buckwheat and cattle, and Russia has banned exports of fertilizer.
The solution to these challenges lies in regenerative biodynamic farming, which does not use any chemical inputs and enables us to work with the harmony that exists in nature. Biodynamic farming doesn't just stop the destruction of the soil, it regenerates it, whilst improving the food quality. It helps to stablize the climate through carbon sequestration and mitigation by working with nature rather than conquering it. The article also goes deeper into the benefits of regenerative farming practices in general and presents a few successful projects.
More news from the Federation on our websiteand social media:
Thanks to all our readers and authors for their interest. The next newsletter will be published in June 2022. If you would like to submit any articles or comments, please send your contributions to: email@example.com.